The sale of the heritage-listed Coffs Harbour Regional Museum building has been voted down at last night’s council meeting.
By The Editor
The councillors voted 5-2 to reject an offer to sell the building for $950,000 to contribute to the funding of the proposed Cultural and Civic Space. Councillor Tegan Swan was absent from tonight’s meeting but CCO understands she would have voted against the sale too.
Cr’s Amos, Arkan, Knight, Rhoades and Townley voted against the sale while Councillors Adendorf and Cecato voted for it.
Analysis by Coffs Coast Outlook (CCO) earlier this week and also year ago noted the proposed sale represented a 50% loss overall on the original price paid plus extensive renovations and improvements done since – See; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/?p=36516
Mayor Denise Knight, who had previously voted for the sale of the museum, told the chamber she was “on the fence” about the sale of the cultural asset, and noted its importance and significance to the community. “It’s the building itself that’s part of our history,” she said.
She also proposed the council could explore leasing the building to prevent its architecture from being lost.
Cr Sally Townley, who has voted previously, for the contentious Cultural and Civic Space (CCS) proposed for Gordon Street was emphatic in saying she believed the offer for the Museum being recommended by Council’s Executive was sub-optimal.
Cr Townley has, in the opinion of CCO, been strong in her view that all the financial arrangements proposed for the development of the CCS must stack up and not be a burden on the ratepayer and it is pleasing to see her being consistent in this regard.
Cr Townley recently polled second in an online virtual election run jointly by CCO and the Facebook page Coffs Coast Independent News – See; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/?p=36272
Cr Michael Adendorff, on the other hand, argued to accept the offer and referenced the “fairly restrictive” rules which apply to developing heritage listed buildings as being a reason as to why he supported the sale as proposed.
Cr Knight claimed that the sale would mean Council would have to find alternative funding of $1m to fund the proposed CCS.
Cr Paul Amos asked a question in regards to the CCS that many ratepayers would like an answer to, namely;”When will the development application for the Cultural and Civic Space be determined”.
General Manager Steve McGrath answered saying:
“I have been making inquiries and trying to ascertain the status and the nearest I can tell you is the assessment has been completed and it is with the minister seeking a final decision.”
Council voted unanimously to approve the demolition of the existing buildings on 28-31 Gordon Street.
The Airport Lease
Also up for discussion and consideration is the proposed length of time for the lease of the airport – details of which are “commercial in confidence” – apparently.
Councillor Amos, who won the online virtual election mentioned above and who has been consistently opposed to both the proposed CCS and the privatisation of Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, last night moved the following:
“Council immediately make public the proposed length of the Airport lease contract.”
Council’s Executive, true to form in our opinion, argued that “the airport lease transaction was at a sensitive stage of negotiation with a preferred bidder and that Council’s advisors do not recommend the disclosure of partial lease information at this time. For the reasons stated above, we recommend that CHCC continue to treat the proposed length of the Airport Lease, and all other terms of the transaction, commercial in confidence.“
Councillors rejected this argument, one that frankly seems specious to CCO, and voted that details about the proposed length of time for the proposed lease be released.
We are unaware of who voted which way yet but will update this story when that news becomes available.
Protest outside Chambers
Before the meeting last night a covid safe protest against both the museum sale and the CCS organised by George Partos, who burnt his rate notice on Council steps last week, was held.
About 20 protestors held placards in opposition. CCO has been told a senior Council figure is alleged to have said to some of the protestors; “don’t waste your time, the meeting is closed go home and watch it on line. Your petition was a hoax and only a handful of people are supporting you. Don’t be fooled by all this Facebook rubbish.”
We are also aware that earlier this year a Councillor said to another Councillor that social media audiences are non-representative and it was a waste of time communicating to citizens and ratepayers via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
Leaving aside social media is a double edge sword and it is undoubted that there are ‘pros and cons’ in regards to them it is clear in our opinion that “Councillor X” who said this needs to urgently inform current and former Presidents of the USA, and most political parties in the western world, that the resources they pour into social media are misguided and wasteful.
And of course “Councillor X” should also quickly tell the Russian security forces not to waste their time using them to try and influence elections too. 😉